CRANFORD, NJ — When the baseball and softball Union County Tournaments are seeded for baseball next week and for softball the following week, both defending champions should be garnering the top seeds.
Those would be the Cranford High School baseball and softball squads.
The 69th annual baseball UCT has a tentative date of being seeded on Monday, May 1, because first-round games are scheduled to be played on Saturday, May 6, at the higher seeds.
Cranford, which captured the UCT crown last year for the first time since 2015, began the week at 11-0 and was leading the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division standings at 4-0. Cranford was the only undefeated team in Union County.
Cranford’s record since the start of the season was 56-8, including 20-3 in 2021 and 25-5 in 2022.
Cranford’s first game this week was to be home vs. New Providence High School on Tuesday, April 25.
Cranford came back late to beat Watching Division foe Union High School 7-2 at home on Friday, April 14. Union snapped a scoreless deadlock with two runs in the top of the sixth before Cranford answered with seven in the bottom of the sixth.
At Mountain Division foe Summit High School on Wednesday, April 19, Cranford scored twice in the top of the seventh to take the lead and held on for a 3-2 victory.
On Sunday, April 23, in an Autism Awareness game at Weehawken, Cranford came back to top Bayonne High School 7-6 in eight innings. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh the Cougars rallied from a 6-1 deficit to dramatically tie the game at 6-6 and send it to extras. Cranford then scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth to end it.
The rest of the UCT is tentatively scheduled to continue with the quarterfinals on Wednesday, May 10, at the higher seeds and then move on to the semifinals on Saturday, May 13, at Arthur L. Johnson High School. Rain always plays a big factor if the games can be played on the days they are scheduled.
The championship game is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at Kean University in Union.
Cranford has won all 10 of its UCT titles with present head coach Dennis McCaffery in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2022. McCaffery is 10-1 in UCT finals, his only loss coming in 2017, when Westfield High School defeated Cranford in the season’s championship game.
Preliminary round games for the 47th annual softball UCT are scheduled to be played Saturday, May 13. The first-round games, at the higher seeds, are set for Thursday, May 16. The semifinals, at a site yet to be determined, are scheduled for Saturday, May 20.
The championship game is scheduled for Monday, May 22, at Kean University’s Cougar Field in Union.
The Cranford Cougars, who have won the last two UCT championships, began the week 10-2, losing their first two games after starting the season at 10-0. Cranford lost at home to St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Edison 2-0 on Thursday, April 20, and were then beaten by host Cedar Grove 5-3 in the Saturday, April 22, annual Black and Gold Tournament at Cedar Grove.
In the setback to St. Thomas, they scored in the second and seventh innings. Cranford senior right hander Avery Toddings struck out 13 batters. However, STA hurler Hayley Wieczerzak was even better, fanning 17 and allowing only one hit to Maddy DeLong.
Cedar Grove scored four times in the first inning and then held on to top Cranford and improve to 9-3.
Cranford’s schedule this week to close out the month of April included home against David Brearley High School on Tuesday, April 25, at Westfield on Wednesday, April 26, home vs. Union on Friday, April 28, and at Hillsborough High School on Saturday, April 29, at 11 a.m.
The games against David Brearley and Westfield are Watchung Division clashes. Defending champion Cranford began the week leading the Watchung Division standings at 5-0.
Cranford is seeking to capture the UCT title for the third year in a row, the second time it would accomplish that feat. Cranford won the 2006 UCT with head coach Shannon Norton and the 2007 and 2008 titles with head coach Bob Bruno. Cranford won the UCT again with Bruno in 2010. Cranford then won the crown with Christine Pemoulie in 2021 before winning it last year with first-year head coach Melissa Moreno, who was the starting catcher as a freshman on the 2010 title team.
Cranford won the UCT for the first time with head coach Terry Biunno in 2002. The Cougars have won the crown seven times.
Cranford junior first baseman-pitcher Sophia DeMarco, believed to be the first player in program history to reach and pass 100 career hits and 100 career RBIs, began the week batting a team-leading .553, with 21 hits in 38 at-bats. DeMarco, already committed to play in college at Seton Hall University, also led the team with 21 hits, five home runs, 13 RBIs and 14 runs.
Jonathan Dayton High School began the week leading the Mountain Division at 3-0, Kent Place School led the Sky Division at 4-0 and Union Catholic High School and New Providence High School led the Valley Division, both at 3-1.